Magazine article The Spectator

Euro Acrimony

Magazine article The Spectator

Euro Acrimony

Article excerpt

Sitting in on the twists and turns of EU negotiations must be enough to spread the political equivalent of bird flu, characterised by high fever and delusions.

Certainly, poor old Edward Stourton seems to have been infected after observing the British presidency of the EU last year. In the first of a three-part documentary Inside the British Presidency on Radio Four last week (Monday), he opined gravely, 'The rejection of the new European constitution in France and the Netherlands last summer and the summit in June which broke up in acrimony over the EU's budget really did merit that overused word crisis.' Crisis? What crisis?

to misquote Jim Callaghan's damaging comment on the winter of discontent after returning from the sunny Caribbean.

Of course, these things are a crisis to a Eurocrat but not to the rest of us. I dare say most of us were delighted when the constitution was rejected by the two countries. It saved us from having to vote against it in our own referendum, for one thing. As for the EU budget, we all knew Tony Blair would eventually cave in on the British rebate, as he does on everything to do with the EU, so we were hardly surprised. I must say, though, that Stourton's first programme, about opposition from some states to Turkey's full membership of the EU, conveyed something of the Alice in Wonderland nature of the whole business, and demonstrated, too, the spinelessness of the EU's current crop of political leaders, all hiding behind Austria's opposition to Turkish membership, particularly the French. Both countries have good reasons to be against it.

As Stourton reminded us, the Turks laid siege to Vienna in the 17th century but were mercifully repulsed, and this folk memory remains potent in Austria. The French don't need to be made aware of the dangers of immigration from an Islamic country. The riots by disaffected North African youths last year brought it home to them. The former French president, the otherwise preposterous Giscard d'Estaing, told the programme that proposed Turkish entry was responsible for the No vote in the French referendum.

Seventy per cent of the French, he said, were against it. The baffling thing is why Britain is so keen to see the accession of such a huge Islamic country which will alter the face of Europe for the worse. …

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